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This is my final blog, so I thought it would be a good opportunity to reflect on my experience and talk to you about the various elements – the people and the organisations – which must combine to make sure you have a successful Study Abroad experience.
Local partnership: There are so many Study Abroad opportunities that choosing the right one at first seems very confusing. You should find a credible Study Abroad agency in your local area to help you. My Study Abroad agency of choice was a partner of High Schools International and based in my home town. They work together with High Schools International to provide students with all the advice and guidance they need to choose the right Study Abroad programme. This is where everything starts! I’ll never stop thanking them. Choosing the right partnership is fundamentally important because it is going to affect basically everything. If you don’t have trust in the people who decide where and how your abroad year is going to be, then I believe you cannot really start the experience in the right way. After an accurate research on internet, is time to decide.
Most partnerships require some tests, both of English language (if your goal is an English-speaking country) and psychologically, to see if you are the right person to be part of their team, and if this experience really suits you. Bear in mind that we are talking about leaving your home for up to one year, not a holiday! Every suggestion they give to you, every rule they say, is important to be respected. They look after everything relating to your application form, your future school and host family, and of course they are the people to go to when feeling a bit lost or confused. Key word: trust! Usually you are going to have one person who is going to work on your profile for months and months before your departure and then, once you have gone, you are going to be looked after by an English partnership and therefore another English coordinator.
Student Advisor: the Student Advisor works for High Schools International and is referred as “local coordinator”. That person is going to explain to you some things you do have to think about before leaving, maybe via e-mail, and then after your arrival in England, is going to visit you often, to make sure that everything is all right. My local coordinator is called Valerie and we get along well, because I know that when I need a word with her about a problem I have she is going to sort it out as soon as she can. I really appreciate all the hard work she does for me and for all of her students at High Schools International.
Host family and host brothers/sisters: of course. Your host family is so, so, so, important. Without getting along with the host family, is going to be difficult have a nice experience. Could you imagine living 1 year with someone you don’t like to talk to or simply you don’t have anything in common? Therefore your host family really has to suit you. That is the reason why every student has to fill out a huge application form, which is just your profile, in order to make you live a great experience with people who have something in common with you! Your host family will be selected by High Schools International, who try to match you with a family based on your preferences, so you don’t have to worry about it at all. If there are any small problems, they can be sorted out quickly, because the Student Advisor at High Schools International is always going to support you, but the essential thing is telling if something is not all right as soon as possible.
Anyway, there is no reason why think negatively: if the host family will not be what you think it would have been, do not panic. There are always ways to work the situation out. Don’t forget that if you’ll be lucky, you are going to spend great time with your host family and also host brothers or sister and you’ll never forget each other! You’ll stay in contact and you’ll always have an amazing memory of them all.
Your parents: never forget you will be abroad thank to them! Remember that for them is a sacrifice. Remember that they want you at home, because you are their baby! Remember that if your parents let you do this experience, this really means they are great parents and they are ready to support you. They will always wait for your return with open arms. Always be thankful.
Your (old) friends: this experience will leave you lots of time to think and you are going to understand who is actually a friend of yours or who is not really missing you. But, sure thing, your actual friends are going to text you basically every day to support you and never leave you alone!
Your (new) friends and everyone who in general is going be part of your life such as teachers and maybe a partner: it is only thank to them that you are going to learn the new language! Even if at the beginning you might find difficult create a new group or simply have someone to talk with, after a while other people are automatically going to see you as part of the group. Of course, everybody needs to make an effort, but if you are going to ready to leave your country for so long, I am sure you can also wave your hand at someone and introduce yourself!
Your school: It is important that you have the opportunity to choose your school, but at the same time it is useful to have some professional advice, this is why working with a companies like High Schools International is so important, so they can help you understand the different school options available to you. Your school is a place you are going to spend a lot of the time in. It is going to be your new community, and it is so important that you like it. You will be the news and everyone will be pleasant to meet you. Don’t be scared, you will get to know them back. Try to take every advantage you can, thinking that maybe that school may have something that your previous school doesn’t have and eventually, once at home again, you could suggest your teachers something that is present in English schools but not in your local one.
Yourself: you are the main character. In this completely blank page of your new book you are the author, draftsman, reader, the one who likes and promote the book and also the one who wants to change everything. Your role is the MAIN role. You are a dancer, a singer and a musician in a play. Never forget to believe in yourself, in your skills, in your potentiality, in your personality and to always show you up! You are going to cheer yourself up if necessary and to tell yourself that you can do it! In 5-6 months’ time you are going to look into the mirror and think: is this actually me? Have I changed a lot? And the answers is going be: yes, this is always me, but look at that, look at this new person! A person who knows his limits and knows how to go beyond, a person who made it out! Be prepared for tons of questions about your amazing experience. And always be happy to share!!